Dundee United fans have been rocked by the news that the club’s players and coaching staff are facing wage cuts – with owner Mark Ogren laying bare the financial realities at Tannadice.
The US-based businessman revealed that “everything is on the table” apart from redundancies and also expressed his frustration at the Scottish Government’s reluctance to allow supporters to return to football grounds.
Ogren said: “We expected some fans back. As a result we’re doing a total review of the club’s finances and we’re going to be implementing some cost-cutting measures for the short term and the medium term to counteract what is happening.
“We have to plan now for the worst-case scenario of no fans this season. We’d like to think there will be fans in the ground before then but we can’t plan for it.
“We’d also like to think there will be some government assistance coming but we can’t plan for that either.
“We’re assessing everything from top to bottom.”
1 – When were the players and coaching staff informed of the cost cutting at Dundee United?
At a meeting yesterday, Micky Mellon and his first-team squad were asked to accept salary reductions of 20 per cent until the end of the season.
It marks the second phase of the coronavirus-hit United after Ogren’s support and furlough grants ensured the March to October period was negotiated with minimum impact on staff.
He said: “The first phase we had budgeted for so we anticipated it but we didn’t budget for this second phase.”
He added: “I’d like to think that redundancies are off the table.
“We want to do everything we can to protect people and their jobs. But we just don’t know how bad this is going to be.
“This will impact everybody, no matter who you are and what position you have in the club. We appreciate you and thank you for your understanding in what will be your personal sacrifice.”
2 – Has an agreement been reached?
No, not yet, although Tangerines chiefs are confident Mellon and his stars will accept the proposals.
However, it’s understood PFA Scotland are monitoring the situation amid Scottish Sun and Daily Record reports claiming the players are dismayed after being told the cuts won’t affect loan signings Luke Bolton (Manchester City) and Marc McNulty (Reading) and new boys Jeando Fuchs and Ryan Edwards.
3 – Could United be forced to consider selling star players in January in a bid to balance the books?
Ogren says: “We’re not going to have a fire sale, that’s for sure. But yeah, buying and selling players is part of football.
“We would expect there to be some activity in January – depending on how bad things are, maybe more activity than normal. We’ll see.
“We’ve got a good chance of winning on the pitch, so there is a balance.”
4 – Ogren and his co-owners recently put their American baseball team, the Sioux Fall Canaries, up for sale recently – should Tangerines fans read anything into this?
The United owner insists – in the strongest terms – that he is committed to the Scottish Premiership side.
He said: “We are absolutely not up for sale. We’re looking for local ownership (of the Canaries).
“It’s four hours from my home but I get there so occasionally. I’m not as plugged into that club as I should be. I’m focused more on Dundee United.
“I go to Scotland more often than I go to there. I’m as committed as ever, no question about it. It’s killing me that I’m not over there.
“I feel horrible for our fans. We haven’t been able to properly celebrate our promotion or get into any of our Premiership games that we fought so hard to be a part of.
“I feel their pain. I’m the same way. I haven’t been over there since February when we played Arbroath.”
He added: “I’ve got limited funds. We need to figure this out.
“But I don’t want to scare people into thinking we’re going away because that is not the case.
“There were a lot of concerns about what the future was going to look like before I got involved.
“We’re going to figure this out but we’ll need help from the government, our fans and everybody at the club.”
5 – The club’s annual accounts are due out soon – how will they look?
Bad, according to the Tannadice chief.
Yesterday Ogren said: “We’re definitely going to have another loss. It’s just a question of how big.
“We haven’t finalised the books. We got hurt badly at the end of last year and it will be bad again.”
But the 58-year-old hasn’t given up on eventually turning a profit in the City of Discovery and believes youth development is a crucial part of the business.
He said: “It’s hard to make money and that’s why the academy is such a big part of our plan. It’s vital.
“It will potentially be affected like every other area of the club – everything is on the table right now.
“But we’re committed to our academy.
“Investing in Scottish football isn’t a get rich quick scheme. There’s a risk involved and I was told many times that I should get my head examined.
“I was told that if I wanted to make money this was not the way to do it.
“It was a risk I was willing to accept because I had faith in our plan and I had faith in our fans. They have been awesome.
“What I can’t accept is the government saying we can’t have any of those fans in our stadium without financial support to assist us. It’s hurting us badly – not just us but the rest of Scottish football.
“Is Dundee United going to survive? Yes it’s going to survive, but it could get messy.
“I didn’t invest in this cub to see it go away. We’re going to do what we have to do to survive this.”